Splitting Twigs

by Marnie
(New Zealand)

Splitting your Twigs?  Try these tips...

Splitting your Twigs? Try these tips...

I've been making some trellises for my garden, but I'm having problems with the twigs splitting when I try to nail them. What am I doing wrong? I'm using really fresh willow - is this the problem?

Woman of Many Sticks replies:

I've got a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to twig work. Twigs are a whole different kettle of fish than kiln dried lumber, so you need a few other ways of dealing with them.

First of all, if you're using really fresh willow twigs or rods in the spring, they tend to be really sappy and the bark will 'slip' or come off.

I recommend that you leave the twigs to mellow for a few days or weeks, depending on how dry your climate is. This will help not only with the slippage of the bark, but with the splitting too.

Here are two more techniques that will prevent splitting.

The first one, and the one that is most fiddly, is to drill pilot holes for every nail that you use. It's important to get a drill bit the tiniest amount smaller than the nail you're using, so usually what I do is drill all the way through the top twig, but only partially through the bottom one.

This ensures that there is something for the nail to 'bite' into.

The second method, also a bit fiddly but doesn't entail using a drill, is to place a bunch of the nails you want to use upside down with the point up, and give them a couple of light taps with the hammer.

It sounds weird, but it works.

I figure what it does is blunts the point just enough that it worms its way through the fibers of the twig, instead of damaging them with the sharp point.

Try these methods and see which you like best; I'll bet you won't have any more issues with splitting the twigs while making your crafts.

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